Is It Fair To Be Hyper-Critical Of Launch Window Games?
If you’ve been paying careful attention to our articles of late, then you would know that this has been a recurring topic for some of us. Had you listened to our latest podcast episode, which is probably our longest yet (and somehow actually full of gaming talk), you will have heard us elaborate on this topic a bit.
But I’m not so sure that it’s enough and I’d like to take this opportunity to elaborate even further. But first, some background.
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The topic of being hyper-critical towards launch window games came up in the form of a debate that started in the eGamer WhatsApp group (yes, we have one) after Azhar shared some early review scores for Killzone: Shadow Fall, stating that many reviewers were rating it as average to mediocre. He felt that reviewers were perhaps being a little unfair on it given how good it looks and the fact that it’s a launch title on a new generation of consoles, therefore brand new hardware. This immediately sparked a response from myself that as a next-gen title, we ought to raise our expectations a little. Azhar then disagreed and the team as a whole engaged in a healthy discussion related to how we perceive launch titles, versus how we ought to perceive them.
In the ideal world, a new generation means a new way to play games. In the real world, that takes a few years. And when we refer to launch titles, we’re referring to that first year of next gen; in this case, November 2013 to November 2014. The release window, so to speak.
Now I’m not against Azhar’s point that factoring in hardware when it comes to the review of a game leads to various complications, and a game should be judged solely on its merits, but my issue comes in with exactly who those reviews would be geared towards.
To clarify this, Killzone: Shadow Fall is among just two exclusive release window titles available on PlayStation 4, the other being Knack. Reviews help us to make purchasing decisions. Now if Killzone: Shadow Fall is one of two titles available, with each title uniquely different compared to the other, reviews effectively become superfluous to anyone who already owns a PS4. You’re either going to get one of the cross-platform titles (Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag, Call of Duty: Ghosts, Need For Speed: Rivals, etc.) or you’re going to get an exclusive.
But what if my purchasing decision is not the game but the console?
If I am deciding between an Xbox One and a PlayStation 4, and I have the reviews of Ryse, Forza 5, Knack and Killzone: Shadow Fall to look at, surely that is going to influence my choice? Assuming I am getting either console specifically for gaming. After all, there could be myriad other reasons for me to want either console — I might fancy getting hacked, for example, or a broken disc tray.
The point however is that Killzone: Shadow Fall has the unwanted burden of being the game that sways one’s purchasing decision when opting to go for a PlayStation 4, and with various retailers currently listing it at a holiday special price of R6300, with Killzone: Shadow Fall a little bit more, you’re effectively attaching R7000+ worth of value to that review score. Suddenly, it kind of is a big deal. Suddenly, I want to be hyper-critical of launch window games.
I’ve maintained that you’d need to be stupid, rich or brave to buy a console within its first year of launching. Already there have been issues on both consoles, both in terms of hardware and software hiccups. None of the launch titles have been receiving the world of praise either. Earlier I watched Angry Joe’s Angry Review of Killzone: Shadow Fall and in it he basically explained that the game is exactly what you’d find on current gen, but with better visuals.
So if I’m not a graphics whore, then what exactly is it that convinces me to move to next-gen? If Killzone: Shadow Fall is like a shooter from the current generation, then where is my motivation going to come from, to adopt the next generation of consoles? Perhaps it is unfair to place that much of a burden on launch window titles but the onus is on developers to try new things and find ways to get us interested. Find ways to show us that the experiences on offer in the next-gen titles can’t be found on the current generation of consoles. And then you’ve won us over. Then we’ll buy your overpriced consoles that are basically just graphics updates with sharing features enabled.
What do you think about launch window titles? Do you think it’s fair to be harsh on them for giving us what we can already find on current generation consoles, or should we excuse them for now because we know the innovations will inevitably come our way? Let us know in the comments.